Failure is a temporary stop on the road to success

March 1, 2020
5:00 min read
Laura Browne
Failure is a temporary stop on the road to success
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For the latest episode of ‘Talk Life Science Marketing Analysis’ podcast, I was privileged to interview Kristen Garvey, Vice President Corporate Communications at Waters Corporation. Our conversation took place at the outset of the coronavirus outbreak.

Fostering a Failure Mindset

The main theme of this episode is how to foster a failure mindset to ultimately achieve success. Kristen describes her focus on empowering her team to succeed, by delivering benefit to stakeholders. This customer-centricity (both internal and external) is at the heart of everything.

We discuss what Kristen perceives to be her biggest communications failure, and what she learned from it. We explore how she was taught the value of taking risks when launching a new brand campaign at the outset of her career. Her gut told her she didn’t like what she was pitching, but she followed the guidelines and went with it. The pitch was not a success. Her manager highlighted that the path to success is never a straight line, and encouraged her to go back to the drawing board. She learned to ’see opportunity in the mistake’ and did what she wanted to do in the beginning, to great success. Kristen highlights the need to be fearless: “don’t let fear of failure stop you succeeding”.

How to use data to fail fast in marketing and communications

Our conversation digs deep into how you can use marketing data to ‘foster the failure mindset’. This enables you to fail fast, but still correct course. Kristen describes how she uses martech and data to deliver the right messages, to the right audiences at the right time. She gives an example of how the team drove a 47% increase in engagement in social media by cutting activity back by 50%: “let the data do the talking”.

Design measurement into the program

Waters takes a scientific approach to marketing: develop hypotheses and then A/B test. “Test and learn continuously”.  We explore a strategy cascade project which followed this methodology: helping employees understand the vision and plan for the company and how each employee plays a role. This resulted in a double digit increase in engagement.

We discuss the importance of designing measurement into the marketing and communications programs. “If you can’t measure it, you should question whether you should do it. When you set objectives, tie a metric to that objective”. This enables people to adjust programs while they are running.

Waters bakes measurement budgets into overall campaigns. “It is hard to not have measurement as part of the program”. You have to know what is working or not. It is tough to run a program without the data behind it. The team uses metrics and data to prove value. She feels they are getting better at putting goals out there at the outset: making big bets. “We take a fearless approach: set metrics and goals ahead of time, so people have something to shoot for”.

How to Measure PR, Brand and Communications Programs

We discuss the ways communications and brand teams can now measure their offline activities. For example using brand tracking studies; in PR measurement: analyzing message pull-through and share of voice. Kristen describes a project they are working on to build a comms dashboard. This will be an enterprise-wide function to give data that can prove PR and communications success.

We return to the topic of adopting a failure mindset: “marketing and comms technology is part of our empowerment as communicators”. To people who say marketing is soft and can’t be measured: “that is not the world we live in anymore. You can have a hypothesis and test it. Now we have the data to remove gut instinct from marketing. Test, learn and adjust.”

Measuring Marketing and Communications Return on Investment (ROI)

We discuss the technology the team uses to measure return on investment, and the internal processes they adopt for communicating what worked and what didn’t, and importantly what they learned. Kristen describes the goal-setting process within Waters (this is similar to the process described in the book ‘Measure What Matters‘ by John Doerr).

Finally, as with all our podcasts, we ask what one question would you ask your peers? Kristen expressed excitement about all the new technologies available to marketers and communicators, for example and AR and VR. She asked how are they using these new technologies?

Kristen also took the time to answer the question posed by previous interviewee, Jim Heeren from Thermo Fisher Scientific: ‘how marketers and communicators in a scientific industry work with other functions in the business. Because there is not a full appreciation of what value it brings, it can be challenging to justify investment into new areas. You have to constantly fight battles about why doing things a certain way. How do you show your value to stakeholders outside of the marketing department?

Take a listen!